Cliff crash that killed family appears ‘intentional,’ authorities say


(RNN) – Based on preliminary evidence, including the car’s speedometer reading, the California Highway patrol says the car crash that killed at least five family members may have been intentional.

Officials with the CHP say Sarah and Jennifer Hart’s SUV, which was carrying the couple and at least three of their adopted kids, stopped at a pullout in Westport, CA, then accelerated over the cliff in front of the car, according to KGW.

The vehicle’s speedometer, which was recovered last Monday by CHP, read 90 mph, but authorities say this finding is not conclusive because the speedometer “could have moved at impact or somehow was manipulated.”

CHP states they do, however, have reason to believe the crash was intentional. Air bag evidence and a lack of tire friction by the cliff edge led to this conclusion, KOIN reports.

Both Sarah and Jennifer Hart as well as three of their six children – 19-year-old Markis, 14-year-old Jeremiah and 14-year-old Abigail – were confirmed dead Wednesday.

Authorities are still searching for the remaining three siblings – 16-year-old Hannah, 15-year-old Devonte and 12-year-old Sierra – but have said they believe they may have also been in the car at the time of the crash.

Devonte Hart has been identified as one of the subjects of a viral set of photos from the 2014 protests over the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Then 12, the boy held a sign reading “free hugs,” as he tearfully hugged a police officer.

12 Yr Old Protester Devonte Hart Held A Sign “Free Hugs”.

The Officer Asked If He Could Have One.

— #TIMESUP (@Lnonblonde) November 30, 2014

A search warrant executed Thursday revealed no specific reason why the family left their home, nor did CHP find a suicide note, according to KGW.

Officials with Child Protective Services had opened an investigation into the Hart family on March 23, three days before the crash.

Neighbors reported concern for the couple’s children, including a belief that the parents may have been withholding food.

Sarah Hart was convicted in a 2011 case of domestic assault after her then 6-year-old daughter Abigail went to school with bruises on her back and stomach. The woman pleaded guilty, saying a spanking had gotten “out of control.”

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